Kendo no Go
In The Language of Kendo
A Fanfic in 100 Chapters
Kamiya Kioku was not happy.
Her husband ignored her carefully expressed anger, reading the papers in front of him with increased interest. The war was over, finally, and life in Edo was beginning to return to normal. He himself had come home only three weeks previous, and the mood that fact had created in his mind would certainly not be spoiled by the woman's tense spirit.
Besides the war, the primary topic of that day's paper - as it had been for several years, now - little else was occurring in the city. Murders - 'I'll probably have to deal with that eventually as well,' he thought with dread - theft, vandalism... the normal events of a large town where the people thrived on violence. There was certainly enough turbulent emotions spouting from the capital to spread to their fair city. As an old soldier and an official policeman of Edo, he had enough to deal with, without having to think of Kyoto again.
His daughter watched her mother serve their meal with a deep frown on her face, unsure of the stormy emotions surrounding the chabudai at which they knelt. It was 1869, and Kaoru would be eight years old in a month.
She had not been sure what to think when her father had come home. As she remembered, the household had been peaceful and happy without his stern, intense presence. He was like a mountain, tall and hard, and when he left there had been nothing left but her mother, the wind, and smiles. It had been quiet, and her mother had kissed her goodnight as she always had before, like nothing had changed.
But when he came back, the first thing her had done was pick her up and swing her around in his arms, and she had spread her fingers wide to feel the wind flowing through them. She had felt as if she were flying, and afterwards, still carrying her, he had kissed her mother as if he, too, wanted to wish her goodnight. Maybe he had yearned for that kiss for a long time.
"Welcome home," Kioku had given him a small smile; they had gone inside to have dinner, and the silence returned, without the feeling of peace she had grown to love while he was away.
The miso was bland, the beef slightly overcooked. Kioku murmured an apology, but her husband merely waved it off. Koshijirou was not easily ruffled by such trivial things, although it was unusual for her to make a mistake. She loved cooking, and she always placed her greatest effort into her duties.
After dinner, they treated themselves to shaved ice and steaming green tea. Kaoru took great delight in pouring a little bit of tea into her ice, the flavoured dessert melting into transparent crystals, tinged yellow and green by the crushed leaves of their drink. Her parents merely smiled at her antics, although not at each other. Later, Kioku broke a dish in the sink, her eyes narrowed in fierce determination as she washed them. Koshijirou left for his night shift, muttering a quick "thank you for the meal," his sword clinking against his belt. Kaoru watched them both, curious and sad at the same time, and suddenly felt very determined that she would never be like that when she grew up; so secretive, so distant.
She wanted to grow up, and she would never, ever get married like her parents did. She wanted to grow up quickly, so she could live alone and do what she pleased, without having to rely on anyone.
It seemed like something that was very far away.
Eventually, of course, she did grow up. It did not turn out to be as far away as it first seemed. Her mother died not long after that, and through her tears and the sudden lack of direction in her life, she discovered that she wanted to have someone to rely on. She did not want to be alone so badly.
Perhaps her father was the same, she also realized, as she stood against the shoji, watching him hold her mother's kimono close to his body and cry, and cry, and cry.
She learned that she was more like her father than she ever could have realized before. That... they both needed someone to rely upon.
The next day, he began teaching kenjutsu in the training hall that had been her grandfather's, unused for nearly twenty years, and she became his first student.
After he left to fight in the Seinan war, nine years later, and did not return, she learned to rely on herself. She left the dojo open to all students seeking her father's ideal - to protect, not to kill - and kept on living where she had always been. She had not expected to remain there when on her own, but rather had thought she would move out and find her own path, her own home. She had not expected to live so much longer than her parents.
When she could afford it, she ate at the local restaurants near her home, now Tokyo instead of the Edo she remembered. She visited her friend Tae at the Akabeko, who was a few years older than her, yet was still happy to spend time with the independent assistant master. She tried to learn how to cook, with Tae at her side giving instructions when she could, but each attempt seemed faulty in some manner. The meals were burned, overspiced or without flavour, sickly and undercooked. Each failure tore into her heart, but she would not be deterred, and still she tried.
She never traveled, because it was expensive and she was forced to learn to be careful with her money. Yen did not come easy, especially for a female kendo instructor. She learned to be thrifty, to use every resource available. She made a routine for her life, careful and sure.
She met a wanderer in the streets one night, expecting to see someone other than who he was, and found more than she ever thought was possible.
Notes: This is a parody of Diane Schoemperlen's "In The Language of Love". I'm currently in the middle of reading it myself, actually, and am writing the chapters as I read them. I was rather amused by the first few chapters of the novel and - for no particularly good reason - decided that it would make a good parody. That doesn't necessarily mean that it will be a comedy. There will be some comedy involved (as much as I can write, ^_^;;) but most of it will be inside jokes connecting to the book, sarcasm, and poking fun at the characters. The majority of the story will, however, be a closer look at the characters' lives, beyond all the happy, "everything is perfect" facade that drives me crazy sometimes. I'll try hard not to make it all miserable. ^_^
"Kendo no Go" is basically Japanese for "language of kendo". Incorporating "in" into the title was a bit of a step up for me (I'm lazy and a basic learner of the language), but it fits, anyway.
The original title of this chapter was "Table", which is basically what a chabudai is.
Thanks for reading.
Written January, 2003